Grazing and range management – Riparian areas

The Government of Alberta partners with Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society (Cows and Fish) to promote healthy riparian areas.

Riparian areas and rangelands

Riparian areas:

  • are lush vegetated lands beside streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands
  • have vegetation and soils strongly influenced by the presence of water
  • make up only a small fraction of the land
  • are typically the most productive but most sensitive to disturbance of all landscape types – they however are resilient, and often respond well once the disturbance is mitigated.

Properly functioning uplands and riparian areas help to:

  • maintain water quality and quantity
  • filter nutrients and pollutants
  • prevent erosion
  • provide forage for livestock
  • provide fish and wildlife habitat

Grazing dispositions occur in many of the headwater areas of the province, and well-managed grazing in these areas allows sustainable use of upland forages while minimizing livestock impacts on riparian vegetation, and water quality and quantity. Riparian areas are focal points not just for livestock, but other land uses and can be the centre of resource user conflicts. Riparian systems are resilient and have often developed with large herbivore grazing and browsing. They can be more sensitive to grazing disturbance than uplands though, so it is important for disposition holders to consider grazing management strategies specific to riparian zones and monitor these areas closely for problems that impact their function.

For more information, see Shorelands – Riparian areas.

Promoting healthy riparian areas

The Government of Alberta and the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society (Cows and Fish) work together to promote healthy, sustainably managed riparian areas.

Information on riparian health assessments, field workbooks, inventory forms and user manuals for streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and sloughs are available on the Cows and Fish website.


Further information on riparian areas and riparian health assessment tools can be found at: